Can job shares work? How I tried to juggle two small kids and a demanding job
I’ve worked as a Recruitment Consultant at C&M Travel Recruitment for over a decade and love what I do, but I recently had to address the same problem that many of us face – how to balance my working life while looking after two small children.
I knew I was with the right company and loved my job, but I now also had to manage my kids, their school hours and holidays, as well as a husband who had recently had a promotion and was working away half of the week. Quite the challenge!
I couldn't see how I could continue to work in a full-on sales job but for just two or three days a week. Who would pick up my work on the days I was off? Would I be constantly logging on from home sorting stuff out while missing precious time with my little ones? Would C&M even let me?
Initially, I tried coming back after my maternity leave as a Resourcer for my Manager, Jason, but because I’d been a Recruitment Consultant for so many years, I wanted more from my role and I found it quite frustrating.
So Jason suggested we look for someone for me to job share with. Up until then, the thought hadn't even entered my head. And anyway, I'm so particular that surely I’d be a nightmare to job share with!
Finding the right partner
I was fully involved in finding my job share partner and I took part in the interview process, but it was still an incredibly difficult task. Essentially, it was about finding somebody that has the same values as me and will be able to compliment my working ways.
After searching for some time, we ultimately found Helen who came from a business travel background. She had never done recruitment before and we didn’t initially have the same ideas about the job, but because a lot of my accounts are in business travel, I hoped I had found the right person.
Getting to know you…
At least in the early days, job sharing is hard! You don’t want to let go of the reins. Trying to get to know each other and the way you both work was challenging. In the nicest possible way, she was new and these were my accounts – I was trusting someone I didn’t really know with all of my things!
I had never job-shared before but she had, and she said she planned to work in the same way she had in business travel, so she would complete everything before she went home and then leave a completely clean slate for me. But when you’re a Recruiter, you just can’t do that! Whether it’s setting up an interview or someone coming back to you about a role, things are always ongoing, so it’s impossible to start completely fresh every morning. And so this was a learning curve for her also.
The process of placing someone in a new job can take a week, two weeks or sometimes longer. If you’re working full-time, then you’ll know where you’re up to every step of the way because it will be you that will have had every conversation with that client or candidate, but when there are two of you, you have to rely on excellent communication. Unless you’re very careful, you’ll always be second guessing and trying to pick up where the other person left off. It can take a good chunk of your first day each week trying to get to grips with everything that has gone before!
On top of this, not only did we have to get to know each other and how we both work, we had to try and understand how we both think. Which isn’t easy!
We do have the same values, myself and Helen, but we work very differently, which initially made it difficult but I now see this as a positive. And as time passes it's becoming much easier - our individual approaches mean we cover all angles and have a better chance of succeeding.
There are always a few exceptions but there aren’t many people who can work fast and accurately and have a brilliant memory. So having the two if us in the same team means we can combine our attributes and complement each other.
18 months later
I’ve now been working with Helen for about a year and a half and I couldn't be happier. Of course, we’re still learning – and it took a lot of time to trust each other. There are still things that can be improved, so we look at what’s not right and we reassess it, but overall, it's working well. We're both aiming for the same things - targets and earning money. We're exceeding targets and the stress of work has been lifted, so I can concentrate on my children on the days I'm at home with them. We both still find ourselves doing bits in the evenings or weekends though, where we finish off from the days we're in as we're conscious not to leave too many problems for the next person.
It's difficult to find a company which will allow you to work part-time and give you flexibility with regards to your children in a sales type role, and I have been so lucky that C&M supported me and found a way to make it work! It really has turned out to be the best move for me.
The funny thing that you realise about job shares, is that they end up being even more productive for your employer. When you’re part-time or job sharing, you feel as though you don’t want to be penalised for not working a full week, so you always want to put a bit of extra effort in. Also, when you job share with someone, you’re responsible for each other so you don’t want to let them down. It’s extra motivation.
When I used to be a Manager at a travel agency, I often felt that my part-time employees were harder workers than everyone else. Nine times out of ten, they seemed to feel as though they had to fight to be allowed to carry on working part-time. If you’re employed full-time then perhaps you feel that you can afford a few moments to slack off, but if you’re only working for a couple of days a week, then you haven’t got time to mess around – you have to be constantly on, so you find yourself doing bits from home or staying extra hours etc.
From my perspective as a Recruiter, there’s currently a huge amount of demand for part-time or flexible roles but there still just aren’t enough companies offering them.
However, there’s definitely more flexibility now in terms of what companies are offering to their employees - and that’s great to see. We’ve recently even had a few term-time jobs where you only work during school months, and that was never previously heard of. That obviously offers a lot more flexibility for people with children and hopefully we’ll see more and more of these types of roles in the future.